UN releases “Sport for Peace” stamps to celebrate 2022 Winter Olympic Games

The UN Postal Administration (UNPA) released the new “Sport for Peace” stamps to celebrate the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

The UNPA said in a press release that it is the first time that it has issued stamps for the Olympic Winter Games.

The stamps feature hockey players, snowboarders, figure skaters, bobsledders, curlers; and Alpine Skiers.

The stamps were illustrated by Chinese illustrator Feifei Ruan and designed by UN designer Rorie Katz.

Customers can visit unstamps.org to purchase these stamps and others or learn more about United Nations stamps. They can also visit the UNPA stamp shops in New York, Geneva and Vienna where the stamps can be used for mailing.

The XXIV Olympic Winter Games are scheduled to take place from Feb 4 to 20 in Beijing, China.

In December 2021, the UN General Assembly adopted the Olympic Truce for Beijing 2022, highlighting the contribution of sport to the promotion of peace and solidarity.

The resolution entitled “Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal” calls for the observance of the Olympic Truce for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Beijing 2022, from seven days before the start of the Olympic Games, on Feb. 4 2022, until seven days after the end of the Paralympic Games.

The Olympic Games provide a meaningful opportunity to harness the power of sport to foster an atmosphere of peace, development, resilience, tolerance, and understanding among nations.


Yazidis Laud France, Sweden for Launching Joint Probe to Prosecute IS Fighters

Yazidi groups and activists are welcoming France and Sweden’s recent decision to organize a joint investigation team to assist in the prosecution of former Islamic State soldiers who perpetrated crimes against members of the persecuted religious minority in Syria and Iraq.

The two European countries formed a joint investigation team last week to look into crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against Yazidis by foreign militants linked to IS during the group’s ruthless rule over parts of Iraq and Syria.

French and Swedish investigation efforts are being coordinated by the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust). The group said the joint team seeks to organize those efforts and enable information and evidence to be shared more effectively.

“The main aim of the JIT [Joint Investigation Team] will be to identify FTFs [foreign terrorist fighters] who were involved in core international crimes, such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, primarily perpetrated against members of the Yazidi minority during the armed conflict in Syria and Iraq,” Eurojust said in a statement.\

Jabir Jendo, a Yazidi volunteer who has helped Yazidi women and children who were rescued from IS in Syria, said the effort shows there is still time to get justice for Islamic State’s victims.

“Moves like this give the Yazidis hope that those who committed crimes against us cannot escape the judicial system and will be held accountable for their horrendous actions,” he told VOA, adding that France and Sweden’s initiative “should be an incentive for other countries in Europe and elsewhere to put their efforts together in pursuit of justice for the Yazidi community.”

Jendo said the “the presence of some of these individuals in Europe is a direct threat to many Yazidi survivors who live there now and continue to suffer from the trauma that these very individuals have probably inflicted on them.”

Pursuit of justice

Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking religious minority viewed as infidels by IS extremists.

In August 2014, IS carried out a massive attack on Sinjar, once home to the largest Yazidi community in the world. At least 5,000 Yazidis, mostly men and boys, were killed during the attack on the northern Iraqi city.

IS then kidnapped thousands of Yazidi children and women, who subsequently were used as sex slaves and child soldiers.

Some of those kidnapped were rescued following the territorial defeat of IS in March 2019, but rights groups say nearly 3,000 Yazidi women and children remain missing to date.

In May 2021 a U.N. investigations team said “there is clear and convincing evidence that the crimes” perpetrated by IS “against the Yazidi people clearly constituted genocide.”

According to Ali Isso, director of the Ezdina Foundation, a group that advocates Yazidi rights, the formation of a joint team by Eurojust Agency “is a real step forward in pursuit of the terrorists who participated in the genocide campaign against the Yazidis.”

“It can now be said that the terrorists, some of whom fled to the European Union, no longer have a place of refuge after the formation of this team,” he told VOA, “Because one of its main powers is to obtain a bank of information on the suspects, and thus there will be effective cooperation between this team and the intelligence authorities of EU members.”

Isso urged other countries to follow suit “in order to tighten the screws on the remnants of the terrorist organization” in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere.

Eurojust said authorities in several EU countries already have brought charges for terrorism and core international crimes related to IS, also known as ISIS. In a German court, for example, an Iraqi man was sentenced to life in prison in November for his involvement in crimes against the Yazidis.

The United States has repatriated more than two dozen Americans who supported Islamic State and brought criminal charges against some of them. However, the Biden administration has not publicly indicated whether it supports a broad investigation into Islamic State atrocities. Last year, the United States and 17 other countries issued a joint statement expressing their willingness to help Yazidis displaced by Islamic State and advocate for their rights.

Six years late

Some experts said while the establishment of this joint investigation team is an important development in the search for justice for Yazidi victims, it is six years late.

“The ISIS atrocities and genocide were well known and documented already by 2015 when many mass graves were found in and around Sinjar,” said Seth Frantzman, the author of the book “After ISIS,” who has written extensively about the Yazidis.

“That it has taken six years to do basic work means that the forensic evidence is gone, memories may fade, the thousands of missing Yazidis will likely not be found, and the ISIS criminals have long since begun to fade back into the societies they came from,” he told VOA.

Frantzman said, however, that “if this task force and coordination can produce several symbolic trials it will be worth it. It is important to create an archive of survivors’ testimonies and commemorate the victims of ISIS and show that there is no impunity for the perpetrators.”

Source: Voice of America

Covid-19: More cases hit Africa Cup of Nations teams

Four Cameroon players have tested positive for COVID-19, with the Africa Cup of Nations hosts set to kick off the tournament against Burkina Faso in just over a week’s time, the country’s football federation said.

Other teams preparing for the finals, which start on Jan 9, also reported positive cases, with seven more in the Cape Verde Island squad and one for Morocco.

This adds to positive infections reported on Thursday by Algeria and the Ivory Coast, who have also been hard hit by a possible drug suspension for their first-choice goalkeeper.

Sylvain Gbohouo, who plays in Ethiopia at Wolkite City, has been provisionally suspended by FIFA after testing positive for trimetazidine, a heart medication that the World Anti-Doping Agency categorizes as a stimulant.

The announcement was made by the Ethiopian Football Federation but not confirmed by the Ivorians.

Meanwhile, Cameroon’s Eric Maxim Choupo Moting has been injured in training and is waiting to see if he can play.

The Bayern Munich player, expected to lead the attack for the hosts, suffered “a severe pain in his right knee” and underwent a scan, according to the Cameroon football federation.

It is awaiting the results, fearful that the 32-year-old striker might miss out.

Cameroon also said leading defender Michael Ngadeu Ngadjui, midfielder Pierre Kunde Malong, winger Christian Bassogog, and backup goalkeeper Jean Efala had all tested positive for the novel Coronavirus.

Cape Verde, who have been preparing for the Cup of Nations at home, had already called off a friendly match against Morocco before reporting new cases in their camp on Friday.

A statement said the infected players had been isolated but were showing no symptoms, and that just 15 players were able to train on Friday.

Morocco defender Badr Benoun, a late addition to their squad, has had to postpone plans to join teammates’ training in the United Arab Emirates after returning a positive test.

On Thursday, the Ivory Coast said players arriving from Europe at their training camp in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, had tested positive and have been put in quarantine by local authorities.

Algeria earlier this week said forwards Youcef Belaili and defenders Mohamed Amine Tougai and Houcine Benyada had tested positive at their training camp in Qatar.


Beijing Winter Olympic 2022: African athletics opposes politicization of sports

YAOUNDE— African Athletics Confederation president Hamad Kalkaba Malboum has called for efforts not to let politics get in the way of sports.

“Sports is first and foremost apolitical. Sports is a means to bypass egoism so that, young people in the world could gather in one place without differences in language, race, culture. In a world wherein, we want to transmit the message of peace, a world which is habitable, political aspects should be sidelined from sports,” Malboum, who is also President of the Cameroon National Olympic and Sports Committee said in an interview on Thursday.

Athletes need to embrace sports fully and participate in the Games, he said.

“The most important thing is for the athletes to be present, even if the leaders are absent, it doesn’t stop them from taking part in the competition,” said Malboum, referring to the decision of some countries for not sending any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Malboum also praised China for the efforts deployed to host the Winter Games.

“As it usually takes four years, they (Games and athletes) should be able to surpass their potentials and achieve the desired results. As for China, I can only salute and congratulate them on the efforts deployed and for making it possible for the youths of the world. It is with the spirit they brought in gathering youths from all corners of the world that we quench adversities and promote the values of humanism. So, Bravo China,” the former skilled athlete said.

The Games will be an important occasion to express the solidarity of global society against the COVID-19 pandemic and send a positive message that humanity will overcome the pandemic through joint efforts, Malboum noted.

“We believe that the coronavirus has affected, to an extent, our daily lives. But we can’t put a stop to everything, activities have got to continue, the youth need to come together and talk about messages of peace, promote the spirit of fraternity, excellence and respect,” he said.

“So I think the pandemic is undoubtedly present but the sports sector just like any other should be revived and sustained so that the effects of the pandemic could be contained.”


Omicron and Vaccines: What You Should Know

Omicron is unlikely to have completely outsmarted the vaccines, experts say, even with its unusual array of mutations.

There are a lot of unknowns, but they expect that the shots will still do what they do best: Keep people out of the hospital and out of the grave.

Omicron raised alarms when it was first identified during a sharp spike in cases in South Africa. The World Health Organization added it to its list of variants of concern last week.

The virus contains dozens of mutations, including several that are thought to make it more infectious and others that appear to help it evade the immune system.

“But I think it’s still very possible that vaccines will hold up against severe disease, even with those mutations,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, a professor of medicine at Emory University and president-elect of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

That’s what has happened with every variant so far. With delta, he noted, “breakthrough” infections among vaccinated people have increased, but those cases are mostly mild.

Omicron seems to be better able than other variants to infect people who have already had COVID-19, according to early data from South Africa. But people with reinfections generally have not been seriously ill.

Experts are recommending boosters for people who can get them. U.S. officials have authorized them for everyone age 18 and older.

Open questions

Researchers will have more questions than answers about omicron for the next few weeks while they study the variant. They don’t yet know for sure how the virus stacks up against other variants in terms of how easily it infects or how sick it makes its victims.

Hospitalizations have increased in South Africa during the omicron surge, but it’s not clear if that’s because the virus causes more severe infections or because more people are getting infected. Most of the country is not vaccinated.

Scientists need to figure out whether the rise in infections is “vaccine failure or failure to vaccinate,” said Dr. Walter Orenstein, associate director of the Emory University Vaccine Center.

“If it’s vaccine failure, is it a problem of time since the last dose and waning immunity?” Orenstein said.

Though it does not yet seem to be necessary, some companies are working on modifying their vaccines to better protect against the new variant.

Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech partners say they can have a new vaccine ready in about three months. Johnson & Johnson says it is working on a new version but did not give a timeline. Oxford University told Reuters news agency that the vaccine it produces with AstraZeneca is still highly effective but that it can quickly update it if necessary.

Many companies have started developing modified vaccines against previous variants, but none has gone to regulators for approval.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it will not require drugmakers seeking approval for their updated vaccines to go through a process as lengthy as the one for the original versions. Much like with the annual flu vaccine, a few tests for safety and immune response will do.

Source: Voice of America

Tonj United FC wins peace tournament in Kuajok

Tonj United FC beat the Genanyuon FC 2-1 to win the Indeed and Truth peace tournament on Sunday, taking home 120,000 SSP in cash.

The tournament was organized by the Indeed and Truth organization, a church-based organization in Tonj South County, in Warrap state on Sunday.

“This football tournament was organized by Indeed and Truth ministry to promote the gospel and peace among the local youth and communities as well. Our Church-based organization, the Indeed and Truth ministry annually organizes it and 16 teams were competing this year until Tonj United football club played final with Genanyuon Football club which ended 2 to 1 in favor of Tonj United FC,” Emanuel Malook Longar, Indeed and Truth tournament supervisor said.

According to Malook, the second-best team, Genanyuon FC won 80,000 SSP while Kuei FC in the third position, and the rest of the clubs will receive participation fees.

Benjima Koch Madut, Tonj United FC coach congratulated his team for winning.

“My team played very well in the first half to score the first goal which was scored by Mariak Anei nicknamed Luiz Shiligo in Jersey No. 7 while team captain Musa Jima or MJ in Jersey No. 10 scored the winning goal at 95 minutes,” explained the jubilant Koch. “They told us that the winning team will receive 100,000 SSP and best keeper, coach, a top scorer who is captain MJ and best defender all will receive 10,000 SSP and these titles were taken by our team,” he said.

For his part, Maluach Garang Maluach, the head coach of Genanyuon football club, expressed his frustration and rejected the match’s results.

“Tonj United scored the first goal in 35 minutes in the first half and it was 1 nil in favor of Tonj United. But in the second half of the match, my team managed to equalize at exactly 90 plus 5 minutes which was added time and the referee refused to blow the final whistle. Eventually, Tonj United again scored an unacceptable winning goal and its fans stormed the pitch,” he complained.

Source: Radio Tamazuj